Law and Government: Criminology. What do you think is a) the principal strength and b) the principal weakness of subcultural theories?

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Subcultural theories, and in particular the later work of Cohen, have tried to answer some of the unanswered questions of earlier theories such as Anomie. In doing so, subcultural theories have both introduced and expanded on several ideas, allowing their principal strengths and weaknesses to be noted. As always, the weaknesses of the theories have been subject to much more comment, but this should not detract from the fact that subcultural theories are a duly respected area of criminology.

The principal strength of subcultural theories is their recognition of group involvement in crime. Shaw and MacKay put emphasis on crime being a group activity, normal in particular peer groups, whilst Sutherland and Cressey, in their Differential Association Theory, thought of crime not as an impulse, nor as a response to economic strain, but as a response to others around you. Cohen, in direct response to Merton's Theory of Anomie, centred his studies on juvenile delinquency, due to its non-compliance.

He believed juvenile delinquency to be a counter culture as opposed to a sub culture, that certain segments of youth feel rejected by society, and respond, not individually, but as a group.

Other criminology theories seem to underestimate the role of both peers and peer pressure in delinquency. Merton and Currie's economic theories described crime as an individual response to financial need, and as such received much criticism. Likewise, modern genetic theories give an individual's surroundings no importance in their personality and level of deviance. I believe that certain crime is inherently a group activity, not only amongst juvenile delinquents as discussed by Cohen, but obviously also in crimes committed by two or more adults.

Even where a crime cannot be said to be committed by a group, the possible importance of learnt behaviour and values, as stressed by...